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Meningioma

  • A meningioma is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor originating from the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

    • Meningiomas can occur in any age group.

    • They affect 2 in 100,000 people, but are much less common in children than in adults: they represent less than 1 percent of all brain tumors in children.

    • When they do affect children, meningiomas occur most often in the sixth and seventh years of life and are slightly more prevalent in boys than in girls.

    As you read further below, you will find general information about meningiomas. If you would like to view summary information about brain tumors first, see the Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital Cancer Center overview on brain tumors.

    How Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center approaches meningiomas

    We hold a weekly brain tumor clinic for newly diagnosed patients currently receiving treatment. Each time you come for an appointment, you meet with every specialist on your child’s team, from your pediatric neuro-oncologist, neurologist, and neurosurgeon, to your pediatric endocrinologist, psycho-oncologist and school liaison.

    Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center’s Pediatric Brain Tumor Program offers your child the following services:

    • Access to high-tech resources, like the intra-operative MRI, which allows our pediatric neurosurgeons to visualize the tumor as they operate with MRI scans. This means they can remove as much of the tumor as possible, and sometimes eliminate additional surgeries.
       
    • Expert neuropathological review, using advanced molecular diagnostic testing, to identify your child’s exact type of tumor. This information helps predict which treatments are more likely to work.
    • Access to unique Phase I clinical trials, from our own investigators, the Children’s Oncology Group and the Pediatric Oncology Experimental Therapeutics Investigators Consortium. Studies offer treatment options beyond standard therapy.
       
    • Ongoing care from pediatric neurologists familiar with the early symptoms and side effects of brain tumors and their treatments.
       
    • Access to one of the nation’s few dedicated pediatric brain tumor survivorship programs. This weekly clinic offers ongoing care to manage late effects caused by your child’s tumor or the treatment they received.

  • How are meningiomas classified?

    The vast majority of meningiomas are benign, although there are very rare malignant meningiomas. The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a grading scale of tumors according to their appearance under a microscope and other factors. These grades are useful for predicting how the tumor will progress.

    Using the WHO scoring system, tumors are graded as:

    • grade I (benign)
    • grade II (atypical)
    • grade III (anaplastic – refers to lack of structure in the cell)
    • grade IV (sarcomatous – the most serious kind of tumor)

    More than 90 percent of meningiomas are classified as benign based on this system.

    What are the symptoms of meningioma?

    While each child may experience symptoms differently, some of the most common include:

    • seizures
    • hemiparesis (weakness on one side of the body)
    • visual disturbance
    • difficulty finding words

    Meningiomas may also have no obvious symptoms and may be discovered through diagnostic scans obtained for other reasons. The symptoms of meningioma may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

  • How is meningioma diagnosed?

    Diagnostic procedures for meningioma may include:

    • computerized tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.

    • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

    • magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) - a test done along with MRI that can detect the presence of particular compounds within sample tissue that can identify tissue as normal or tumor, and may be able to distinguish between different types of brain tumors. It may also be able to tell if the tumor is glial (originating in connective tissue)or neuronal (originating in a neuron, or nerve cell).

  • What treatments are available for meningioma?

    Specific treatment for meningioma may include:

    • surgery – Complete surgical removal is usually best for meningiomas, however there are exceptions: incomplete removal may be more appropriate for tumors in specific locations such as the medial sphenoid wing, orbital, tentorial, clival and posterior parasagittal tumors.

    • radiation therapy – Radiation can decrease the recurrence rate if your child's tumor has not been completely removed. Stereotactic radiotherapy is useful to minimize the dose to surrounding structures and is particularly useful to treat meningiomas next to the optic nerves or brainstem.

    What about progressive or recurrent disease?

    Depending upon the site of the recurrence, surgery will usually be performed again. If this is not possible, or if the tumor cannot be removed, radiotherapy may be considered.

  • What is the latest research on meningioma?

    We are conducting numerous research studies that will help clinicians better understand and treat meningioma. For more information on current research, see the Brain Tumor Program.

    Clinical trials

    There are many ways in which your child might benefit from our medical research program. Our doctors and scientists have made many breakthrough discoveries about diseases like polio and leukemia; our ongoing innovative research continues to push the boundaries of the way pediatric medicine is practiced.

    It’s possible that your child will be eligible to participate in one of our current clinical trials. These studies are useful for a multitude of reasons:

    Some trials are designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a particular drug, treatment or therapy on a specific disease; others help doctors to better understand how and why certain conditions occur. At any given time,

    We have hundreds of clinical trials underway. Of course, your motives as a parent needn’t be entirely altruistic—you’ll naturally want to know how taking part in a trial can immediately benefit your child. If your child’s physician recommends participation in one of Children’s clinical trials, that likely means that your child’s physician believes that the plan outlined in that trial represents the absolute best, latest care your child can possibly receive.

    And participation in any clinical trial is completely voluntary: We will take care to fully explain all elements of the treatment plan prior to the start of the trial, and you may remove your child from the medical study at any time.

    Find a clinical trial

    To search for a cancer trial at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, go to:
    http://www.dana-farber.org/Research/Clinical-Trials/Clinical-Trials-by-Diagnosis.aspx?did=21

    To search the NIH’s list of clinical trials taking place around the world, go to:
    http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/search

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